Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Memory of 9/11/2001

It was to be my very first assignment for CBS News in NY; 9/12/2001. The Towers had fallen the day before and I watched in horror with the rest of the world. I was freelancing as a news photographer at the time and finally got through to a friend at CBS to offer my services. He asked, "how quickly can you pack a bag and get to W57th St.?" My reply was, "I'm already packed". I grabbed my 35 mm SLR and what ever film I had in the house (I did not have a digital camera at that time) and bolted for the CBS Broadcast Center on W57th. I realized in the car that I only had two rolls of black and white film, 36 and 24 exposures. But they would have to do. There was no time to stop. Besides, my primary function would be to use a video camera to document what was happening. The still photography is always done as a second function. Be that as it may, I obviously knew that I would be witnessing a historic event and I wanted to be able to document it in every way possible.

Shortly after arriving at the chaos that was CBS, another photographer and I were to take our gear, hitch a ride downtown and report to 40 Worth St., at the corner of Greenwich. From there we would be assigned a camera with a long lens on the roof of that building, 40 stories above the carnage, to document the recovery efforts, 24 hours a day, until further notice. We could work out our own schedule as long as their was 24 hour coverage. We caught a ride with a food truck that was going downtown to deliver supplies to a CBS command post on W12th St. From our understanding, we would have to walk the rest of the way as the City was closed below that point to all traffic except emergency vehicles.

After we left the truck we cleared security and began our trek the rest of the way to where the Towers had once stood. We walked in eeire silence (the City had been evacuated from that point to the Battery), guided by these two enormous plumes of smoke where the World Trade Center should have been! What so struck me was that they were like two specters, mirroring in ghostly fashion, what used to be!!

We finally arrived at our destination and were immediately shocked by what we saw. The destruction of the Towers was complete and massive. This would be a long and difficult gig. But we couldn't dwell on that; we had a job to do and we got right to it. My partner and I would use our long lens to shoot down from the roof, forty stories up, into the rubble that where the Twin Towers to capture any potential rescues or recoveries. In the beginning it was so intense that we both worked virtually 24 hours continuously. However, after the first day or two we managed to split the day into twelve hour shifts.

Because I spent so many various hours at Ground Zero, it afforded me a unique, virtually 24 hour perspective. And, in addition to my perch high above the carnage, I also had the opportunity to witness it from ground level in my off hours. I used my film sparingly to capture what I believe to be some very unique images of a terrible eight days.

Eight days that can never be forgotten. It certainly changed me. It changed all of us. I present my photos but once a year, on the Anniversary. It is too painful and too inappropriate to use them for any other purpose but as a memorial to those who were lost. I will add descriptions were it may be helpful in understanding what was happening at that time.

For those lost, and those who lost:

#1: Looking South/East along the West Side Highway. The rubble is what's left of the North Tower

#2: Looking South/West down Greenwich St.

#3: Greenwich St. The remains of WTC Bldg. 7

#4: Ground level along Greenwich. WTC Bldg. 7

#5: The smoldering remains of WTC 7. South along Greenwich.

#6: Night version of Photo #1. South along the West Highway.

#7: Time exposure, South along Greenwich. Bldg. 7.

#8: South along Greenwich at approx. 2 a.m.

#9: Ground level, Broadway. What's left of the fa├žade of the South Tower. Approx. 4 a.m.

#10: The remains of the South Tower. It reminded me of the carcass of an animal killed by lions and left on some African plane to be picked on by vultures!



#13: The work never stopped. And the people who support those workers, like The Red Cross, never stopped either. This is an aid station along Greenwich St.

#14: The rescue/recovery work never stopped. These men are heading down Greenwich to Bldg. 7.

#15: A Red Cross aid station. Those volunteers were great!

#16: Looking South/East towards Brooklyn. The haze from the destruction spread far and wide.

#17: Looking North. In a strange way, it was beautiful, too.

#18. North.

#19: North. As I said, in a strange way, it was beautiful.

#20: North. What was striking was how beautiful the weather was.

#21: Reporter lined the entire West Side Highway.

#22: Our home away from home. Since we often spent 14-24 hours/day there, we did our best to make ourselves as comfortable as possible.

#23: High above the carnage - day and night.


#25: It sure gets cold at 4 a.m.!

#26: Transmitting to all over the world.

#27: Doing our best to stay warm.

#28: The glamorous life of a news photographer.
I made these on 9/11/2001, the 10th Anniversary.











#40: A vision of the future!


  1. I did not know it was your first assignment with CBS. You captured the essense of the days that followed respectfully, judiciously, and relentlessly. Thank you!

  2. Wow Frank. This is amazing historical stuff. Perhaps B/W was the best way to capture these images. Shots # 1,3,9 and 22 are my favorites. I was working in the Delta College Public Radio studio, live with on-air updates as we could dig them up. A tragic, yet amazing day, especially for those of us in the media. I know I'll never forget. It's hard to believe that 12 years have passed. Thanks for sharing my friend.

  3. I've been crying all morning. Always do on this day. But it's OK. Feels good. Thanks, my friends!! :)

  4. Thank you, Frank. Your photos and words, allow us to remember this fateful day. You did a beautiful job. We will remember, always.

  5. movingly documented! The photos tell their story. Now words needed. Thank you ever so much for sharing. God bless!

  6. That's one hell of a first day. Great work and amazing photos! Thank you for sharing such a personal story and bless us all.

  7. Nice photos Frank. Although it is tough to look at, time moves on. As a retired Port Auth Police Officer, this is a tough day for me. Of the 37 Port Auth Police Officers lost that day, 13 came from my Command (PATH), and I came on the job or trained (or in a few cases) trained by many of the ones who were murdered that day. I can, and will tell you stories about my fallen co-workers at our reunion if you wish to hear them, and how they saved many lives that day. Joe Nicoletti

  8. Hi, Joe - the height of bravery and sacrifice. Yes, I would love to hear your stories - and theirs. All of you should be recorded. Perhaps, I can convince CBS to do this. And, even when we sometime disagree politically, I have always respected your service! :)